How to Avoid Jet Lag - Tips From a Professional Traveler
When traveling, there are few things worse than jet lag. But as someone whose job is to travel, I have thankfully learned a thing or two about how to avoid jet lag. So much so that I almost never experience it anymore!
If you too are looking to beat jet lag, here is exactly what I do:
Flying overnight is incredibly important if you are flying long-haul. I fly from America to Europe fairly regularly and there are two things I know for certain:
- If I don’t fly overnight, I will be extremely jet lagged, usually for numerous days
- If I do fly overnight, I will not be jet lagged (as long as I follow the rest of my tips below)
Because of this, I will do almost anything to take an overnight flight.
My perfect world scenario is to leave SF in the afternoon or night, hang out on the flight for a bit (read, listen to some podcasts, watch a movie), eat something light, and then sleep for as long as possible. When I land I then make sure to stay up until it is an acceptable sleeping hour in whichever location I am in.
Flying overnight will make it easier to sleep on the plane (tips on how to do that below) which means you will land less tired. It is by far the easiest way to reset your clock.
PROPERLY PREPARE FOR YOUR FLIGHT
How to prepare for your flight will depend on your flight duration, time of day, your personal preferences, and more. It is important because if, for example, you fly overnight then you need to sleep. If you aren’t in the right seat or the right clothes this can become very difficult.
Some things to think about in order to properly prepare:
- Your seat selection. I personally cannot sleep on a plane unless I’m in a window seat so if I am flying long-haul I will pay whatever I need to make sure I’m in a window seat. Maybe you’re more of an aisle type of gal or guy. Maybe you need to upgrade to extended leg room in order to be comfortable. Maybe you don’t care where you sit and you’d rather save the money (in some cases) to get a random selection. Whatever it is, make a conscious decision.
- What to wear. Back in the day everyone would get incredibly dressed up before hopping on a plane, but lucky for us that is no longer the case. While I don’t think you should show up in your pajamas, I do think you should wear something comfortable enough to sleep in if you’re on a long-haul flight.
- What to carry-on. Unless you’re in first class, you’re pretty much on your own for everything. You might need a neck pillow to sleep, sanitizing wipes to be comfortable, hand lotion, a face mask, sleep aids, snacks, etc. Think about what you need and don’t forget it!
Plane food is not the healthiest and can leave you feeling even more sluggish as a result. Try to bring healthy snacks with you for both in-flight and post-flight.
Things I often bring with me:
- Bars — each have their pros and cons but I like Larabar, RXBAR and Quest
- Nuts — you can buy travel sized baggies at Trader Joes or package them yourself. I like raw cashews or almonds
- Dried fruit — goji berries aren’t the most delicious thing on earth but they boost your immune system, contain antioxidants, are anti-inflammatory, and are easy to travel with!
- Popcorn — white cheddar specifically! SkinnyPop makes 100 calorie bags of it, as does Smartfood
- GG crackers — I recently learned of these via the Skinny Confidential. They taste like unsweetened bran (some people say cardboard) but can easily be spiced up with toppings (avo, hummus, etc.). They’re low cal, full of fiber, and weight almost nothing
- Liquid IV — full of electrolytes, for rapid hydration
- Probiotic — it’s best kept refrigerated but as long as you keep it below 71 degrees it should be fine
Planes are said to be up to three times drier than the Sahara desert, which as you can imagine is pretty dehydrating. How much water you should actually drink depends on a handful of factors, but 8 oz per hour is a good rule of thumb according to Conde Nast Traveler.
Unless I’m in first class, I find it pretty difficult to stay hydrated on a flight. Your best bet, and something I do every time I travel without fail, is to throw a reusable water bottle in your carry-on. When you get through security, find a refill station and fill it up before your flight. I stow this away as a backup, to drink whenever I can’t get ahold of a flight attendant.
And don’t forget to keep hydrating once you land, too! I always chug a water bottle (or two) prior to going to bed which helps.
PRO TIP: invest in some Liquid IV before you go. One packet provides the same hydration as 2-3 water bottles!
AVOID CAFFEINE AND ALCOHOL
As detailed above, flying is incredibly dehydrating. You know what else is incredibly dehydrating? Caffeine and alcohol! It can also mess up your sleep schedule and keep you awake during the flight when you should not be awake.
If you are going to drink in-flight, stick to one drink.
GET ON LOCAL TIME ASAP
A smart thing to do as soon as possible is to pretend you are in the timezone of wherever you are going. Some people start this before even leaving but to be honest I don't normally have time for that. Instead as soon as I’m on the plane I start thinking in my new timezone and try to behave based on that.
If you are heading to Paris and it is midnight there — time for bed!
Speaking of which, if you are flying overnight, it is very important that you sleep. If you are blessed enough to be one of those people who can fall asleep no problem on flights, I envy you.
If you aren’t, here’s what I always bring in my carry on to help:
- Advil PM which helps you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. There’s also melatonin
- Silk eye mask to block light. It is important that it’s silk because it’s much better for your skin. On a budget? This one is only $4.99!
- Inflatable neck pillow for neck support. I use an inflatable one because it takes up less room
- Lavender hand cream and/or aromatic bedtime treatment. Certainly not mandatory but it is helpful :)
...BUT DO NOT NAP!
This one is vital. If you land and you are tired but it’s not sleep time (nighttime) you cannot nap. If you do, you will likely not be tired when it comes to actually sleep and this will mess you up for days. You must do whatever you can to push through until it is proper sleeping time.
(Again, not to beat a dead horse, this is why I think flying overnight is SO important)
This is probably the last thing in the world you’ll feel like doing but it’s one of the most helpful. You don’t necessarily have to do your normal full workout but at least get outside and move around.
Sunlight especially will help your body reset and my best friend swears by putting your bare feet on grass or soil. This is called “earthing” and is said to be a way of naturally recharging. You can read more about that here.